You might not expect to find a "Fuck you you fucking fuck" wife beater tank top in the heart of Mesa, but for 16 years this mom-and-pop shop has defied the town's lack of diversity by selling everything from Cannibal Corpse shirts to The Passion of the Christ posters in the 3,600-square-foot corner of a strip mall, which the owners like to call their own little Switzerland. With more than a thousand different shirts in stock, Shirts 'n' Things prides itself on not being another generic mall shop with sanitized versions of edginess. Instead, it works hard to go beyond the Hot Topic inventory, and hopes to bring back a little of the '70s, when concert tees were wardrobe staples -- if they ever were, in Mesa.

You have to ask to be let into this grand gallery of artsy artifacts, but once you're inside, it's easy to see why. Less an antique shop than a museum of old-timey lighting design, Stuff Antiques provides a wonderfully illuminating trip into the history of vintage lighting. The place is mad with pole lamps and chandeliers, desk lamps and bedside lights and hurricane lanterns, all of them lovingly restored and rewired for use with newfangled electricity. A massive crystal chandelier, circa 1800, dangles elegantly near a pair of Deco-era ceramic boudoir lamps, which are crowding a funky '50s gooseneck with a recently restored parchment shade. If some of Stuff's stuff is pricey, it's because most of it is rare, none of it is repro, and all of it can be retrofitted to light up your home with the help of Stuff's friendly staff.

So what if your basement is bulging with all the stuff you already own and don't have room for? There's more to be had -- and at bargain prices -- at this collectibles mainstay on Indian School Road. Michael Todd's keeps expanding -- the store has taken over several small businesses on either side of it this past year -- to accommodate the roomfuls of gorgeous coffee tables and shiny waterfall desks and terrifically tacky paint-by-numbers sets offered for sale. Someone we know bought a stunning sofa for less than a hundred bucks; another pal found the tabletop jukebox he'd been searching for his whole life. We know we should probably sock away all the money we save by shopping at Michael Todd's, but we don't. We spend it -- on cool old lamps and tin mirrors and magnificent nightstands -- at Michael Todd's.

In north Scottsdale, one woman's trash is another woman's fabulous new famous-label wardrobe. Inside High Society Resale's "3,100 square feet of bargain hunting paradise," shopping becomes a full-contact endeavor: We throw elbows for Escada and body-check for Chanel.

Packed with everything from "blue jeans to ball gowns" -- plus Southwestern home decor items -- HSR scores new used merchandise on a daily basis -- high-end clothing, jewelry, designer handbags and shoes -- and accepts no item more than two years old. This ain't your grandma's thrift shop. High Society lures shoppers with racks of vintage apparel, lighted jewelry cases, and a coat room "brimming with the best furs in the world."

The only true fashion victims? Those who pay retail.

We almost tossed our cookies when we walked into ABC for the first time -- we got that excited. This headquarters for baking, cake decorating and party supplies is all that it promises, and more. We found the pink bakery boxes we'd been looking all over town for, the super-sturdy, every-shape-imaginable cookie cutters we'd been coveting, and armloads of party goods we never knew we needed but suddenly couldn't live without. We now have enough hot pink paper plates and napkins to last us through 2008, and a cabinet stuffed with icing implements we'll never figure out how to use. We couldn't be happier. Life is sweet.

Whether you're a novice with the needles or a veritable machine, Arizona Knitting and Needlepoint has what you need to knit. This charming, tiny yellow house is literally packed to the rafters with a selection of unusual, high-quality yarn, and the prices are fair. The staffers aren't snooty, and they maintain a helpful attitude even when confronted by rank amateurs. If they don't have a particular size and style of needle, they'll cheerfully order it, and they're happy to offer aesthetic advice on your project. (Here, unlike at some other knitting places in the Valley, you might actually feel inclined to take it.) Call first, because the shop closes for a few weeks in the summer.

See, we knew these folks were smart.

This place is like Michaels on acid -- and we mean that as a compliment. Settled in a warehouse just north of I-17 (beware of hard-to-navigate Grand Avenue nearby), Diane Ribbons started as a wholesaler to mom-and-pop craft shops. When those caved under the weight of Michaels, Diane (and we're told there really is a Diane) opened her doors to the masses. And are we glad. This dim, cavernous building houses aisle after aisle of beat-up brown boxes holding sometimes scary but always affordable treasures. Take, for example, the row of boxes of doll heads, all different shapes, sizes and expressions. Or the row of boxes of doll hands. Cree-pee. We got all excited over enormous, multihued pipe cleaners and dozens of kinds of ribbons. You name the craft, the materials for it are in this warehouse. The only bad part of the visit came when we couldn't figure out which way was out, and started to hyperventilate -- just a little -- wondering if we'd be trapped forever with all those doll parts. Luckily, it turned out we were standing right by the exit to the cashier. "First time here?" she asked cheerily, recognizing our frenzied expression.

Yes, we told her. But not our last.

This is not your childhood Hobby Hut. Instead, Beads Galore is for the grown-ups, those of us serious about copying those expensive designs we see in the Sundance and Anthropologie catalogues. Okay, so we're not there yet, but we might be with a little help from our friends at Beads Galore; some days, it feels like there's a one-to-one ratio of staffer to beader.

The walls of this small, multi-room haven are lined with every shape, size and color imaginable, including an impressive collection of semi-precious stones, our personal favorites. You'll also find all the clasps, wire and other tools you need to dress your neck (or arms, or ankles) in style.

BEST PLACE TO OVERSTAY YOUR 19-MINUTE PARKING LIMIT

La Grande Orange

The signs out front ask that visitors park for no longer than 19 minutes, but we gladly risk trouble each time we visit this epicenter of cool. That's because it takes us nearly that long to decide among La Grande Orange's array of salads, sandwiches, sushi and pizzas. Waiting for one of the six precious indoor tables at this upscale delicatessen/grocery can take up more time, but we don't mind -- we spend it choosing among an array of tarts and cakes, baked just a few doors down at Tammie Coe's pastry shop.

Fill your stomach and your grocery bag at La Grande Orange, and then -- if no one's busted you for breaking the 19-minute rule -- take a stroll around the complex that began with Postino, one of the city's most popular wine bars. Make sure you visit Petit Chateau, a trendy mom's dream of a baby shop, and take a peek inside Paper Joy, for invites and note cards. If you're really feeling bold, cross Campbell Avenue and check out Anna Sophia, a boutique offering everything from sparkly jewelry to oversize sparklers.

Trust us, it's worth the dirty looks you'll get when you skulk back to the car.

The Arnold Pickle and Olive Company opened its doors in 1905, when Van Buren Street was a dirt road. The Arnold family began delivering pickles, sandwiches and other products to Phoenix merchants by horse and buggy at first, and remained in business until 10 years ago when the Arnolds' grandson Phil Blair and his wife Judy found themselves with a warehouse full of empty white cypress and redwood vats. Judy wanted to put a fence around the house and asked her husband if she could use some of the wood from the vats. The fence was erected and Judy began making planters and patio furniture. Once she began designing furniture, she was having too much fun to stop, and a new business was born. The showroom, which still bears the distinct odor of pickles, is filled with rustic coffee tables, armoires, desks, lounge chairs, and other original creations designed by Judy Blair that are true pieces of Phoenix history.

Roll out the barrel!

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of